Review of Drowning in Beauty: The Neo-Decadent Anthology

From the Introduction to the About the Authors page, there is a great deal to love about this anthology. It is one of several Neo-Decadence dedicated anthologies I plan to read this year. Snuggly is my new favorite press. 

This collection brings together powerhouse monoliths of modern experimental prose. I think I could read Neo-Decadent anthologies for the rest of my days at the expense of terminally repetitive ‘classics.’

I’ll elaborate on some of my favorites, though the least of these authors could write circles around the writers you will typically find by scouring literary magazines and mainstream productions.

Daniel Corrick – Introduction
Brendan Connell – “First Manifesto of Neo-Decadence”
Justin Isis – “Second Manifesto of Neo-Decadence” – These three preludes did well to set the tone and prepare the reader for a wild ride. Where one competent intro would’ve served, we are treated to three astounding, chiseled, palpitating arguments to bolster the relevance and pleasure to be found in the volume ahead.

Brendan Connell – “Molten Rage” – Connell employs an elegant, image-heavy prose, laden with obscure terminology, dense whorls of description, and luscious settings. An explorer of imaginative interpretations of far-flung locales. His works contain a well-traveled appreciation of art, language, and the capacity of the human mind to salvage meaning and aesthetic quality out of every day experiences.

Justin Isis – “The Quest for Nail Art” – Isis is a brilliant writer who is not limited by specific subjects or genres. Everything of his I’ve read has been poignant, surprising, and unique. A convincing female protagonist here, laugh-out-loud social commentary, much emotional tension, and fabulous imagery and voice. Japan is his go-to setting, and his quirky portraits of detached young people are subtly disturbing and ultimately moving.

Damian Murphy – “A Mansion of Sapphire” – One of the best stories I have ever read by any author. Already a fan of Murphy’s, but this one reached new heights of immersive detail. I love underground, cult-like sub-cultural motifs. Add to that an appreciation for retro video games, and the usual immense, tranquil, magisterial descriptions of dreamlike landscapes, pervaded with eldritch atmosphere.

Yarrow Paisley – “Arnold of Our Time” – Comedic, spoofy, literary. Several sharp jabs at contemporary culture.

Ursula Pflug – “Fires Halfway” – A quiet, effective meditation on more aspects of youth culture, rich and alluring.

Colby Smith – “Somni Draconis” – Good, but I struggle to remember this middle section of the book. Perhaps upon rereading I’ll appreciate the nuances here. There was no detectable decline in quality, but I was disengaged here until Brantley’s production.
Colin Insole – “The Meddlers”
D.P. Watt – Jack”

Avalon Brantley – “Great Seizers’ Ghosts” – A difficult, archaic, semi-historical, operatic adventure story. Makes me curious about the late author’s other works. Some glimmering sentences.

Daniel Corrick – “Chameleon is to Peacock as Salamander is to Phoenix” – Suffered a bit from the overused ‘plight of the artist’ archetype. If you want to get on my bad side, make your main character a writer or artist whose work has never been given adequate appreciation. Here, a graphic artist slowly succumbs to an unusual form of madness. Still entertaining and well-written.

Quentin S. Crisp – “Amen” – An exercise in ultra-detailed depictions of a dreamlike moment. Something Crisp has tried before. But the author’s command of language goes beyond admirable into the incredible. He is preposterously articulate.

James Champagne – “XYschaton” – A tour de force of creepy-pasta science fiction, from an outsider perspective. Displays unfortunately wearisome gimmick with the pronoun, but amounts to a treasure trove of esoteric literary memorabilia. This is how Alexander Theroux would write if he took up science fiction – which he won’t. The prose is that good. Even with the pleonasms and hyper-eccentric narrator. Likely to polarize readers, but pushes the envelope on taboos and storytelling.

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